JuJu Smith-Schuster battled back from shoulder surgery to make an unexpected start in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 42-21 playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. After the game, the receiver said he hopes it's not his final game with the Steelers.
"Honestly, it would be a blessing (to stay in Pittsburgh)," he said, per the official transcript. "I love the city; I love the fans. I love coach (Mike) Tomlin. I love the coaches and my teammates, players, everyone from the media side to the training room. It's been unbelievable. My career here has been amazing. It would be nice to stay here and play with these guys and the same coaches. It would be nice to stay for another four years."
Smith-Schuster signed a one-year contract to return to Pittsburgh last offseason. The wideout suffered a shoulder injury in Week 5 that was expected to knock him out for the season. But JuJu battled back to return for the postseason appearance. He caught five of eight targets for 26 yards in the loss.
"Honestly, no. I don't think nobody knew, not even my mom," he said of being cleared to play. "The times when I was away from the team and the facility, I was always working. I was working to get my shoulder back. Since the day I got hurt, I told myself, this injury was a six-month injury recovery. I told myself I'm doing it in three. When I got cleared, I was like no hesitation, it's time to go. Everything I was doing outside of the facility to get where I am today and to show other teams that I'm healthy. I'm just happy to be out there with my boys."
Smith-Schuster didn't find a long-term contract in his previous foray into free agency, ultimately settling on a one-year, $8 million contract to return to Pittsburgh. The WR is among a host of free agents the Steelers will have to decide on bringing back as they move into the post-Ben Roethlisberger era.
It wasn't a prolific end to the season in the blowout loss, but JuJu proved he was healthy heading into free agency following the injury.
"My agent was telling me, 'It's a contract year; you should be careful,'" he said. "I talked to my mom; Mom is being a mom, you know how that is. And honestly, it just came down to personal stuff, nobody knows my body (better), and I knew I was training for this."